| 12.8°C Dublin

Greens pick up €30k perk without one TD

THE Green Party has pocketed almost €30,000 in Oireachtas allowances since the formation of the new Dail despite having no TDs.

A technicality has allowed the ousted party to collect the payments under the controversial leaders' allowance scheme, the Herald can reveal.

The party suffered a total wipe-out in both the Dail and Seanad elections but accepted the taxpayer cash anyway.

The payouts came from a pot of nearly €3m that has been distributed to the main political parties and independents in the four months between March and June. A total of €29,883.42 has been transferred to the Green Party's bank account.

The money was claimed under the same scheme which previously landed ex-TD Beverley Flynn in hot water.

She was entitled to a leaders' allowance after being elected as an Independent but was forced to repay the money after it emerged she was still claiming it after she rejoined Fianna Fail.

Independent TD Finian McGrath called on the Green Party to repay the money. "It's immoral and wrong. The Green Party doesn't have any elected members to the Dail or Seanad. That's the situation. I don't think it's right," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Finance explained that payment was made because technically the Green Party still had senators until late April.

The 23rd Seanad sat only four times in the aftermath of the General Election, with its main task being the formality of rubberstamping the appointment of the new Government.

"When the previous Dail was dissolved, payments ceased to parties for both their TDs and senators," explained the department spokeswoman.

"When payments resumed to the parties in the week of the General Election (based on their number elected on polling day), payments also resumed for the number of senators attached to each party (as of the date of dissolution of the previous Dail) and remained in place until the new Seanad was elected in late April 2011."

The Green Party's office is currently "closed for holidays" until August 29, while new leader Eamon Ryan was not available for comment.

As a result of the rules Fianna Fail would also have received extra payments based on the fact that they had more senators in the outgoing Seanad.

The money transferred to the Green Party related to their three senators between February 25 to April 25, even though the Seanad was effectively defunct during that period.

"That €30,000 would pay for one special needs assistant for a year. Or six disadvantaged schools would get a huge boost from €5,000 each. So the answer is yes, I do believe they should give the money back," said Deputy McGrath.

Fianna Fail, which now has just 19 TDs, also benefited under the scheme and have so far collected €625,000 in leaders' allowances since the start of the new Dail term.

By the end of June, Fine Gael claimed €945,900 while their coalition partners in Labour received €591,890.

The smaller parties have also received significant amounts with Sinn Fein getting €355,512; Socialist Party €49,382 and People Before Profit €39,382.